Oliver Jones reviews Oxford’s recently-opened Doctor Who escape room
There will be no spoilers for the puzzles in the room in this review, as it’s obviously best to go in blind!
Escape Hunt recently launched a new Doctor Who themed escape room in Oxford, one of several at various sites across the UK. It takes on the standard escape room format: three to six people locked in a room for sixty minutes, with various puzzles you have to complete in order to escape. Usually there are two or three puzzles going at once, so not everyone is crowding one item, but as you complete tasks you’ll unlock more, and sometimes new areas of the room.
The Doctor Who theme is well woven into almost all aspects of the room. We get a small amount of voice work from Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor – taking charge here more obviously than she did in all of Series Eleven! – and the plot involves trying to close a rift before Cybermen use it to attack Earth. Besides these obvious themes there are plenty of references to Doctor Who both new and old. We found well-made items, references or clues relating to the eras of Two, Four, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen – but there may well have been things we missed as well! The only issue here was the slight under-use of the Cybermen, who were mostly confined to a small screen hidden in the wall.
Our group escaped with three minutes to spare, so the difficulty definitely seemed appropriate. The record holders had a whopping twenty-six minutes left, if you plan to beat them come with a Doctor Who themed team name to stick at the top of the leader board!
Compared to other escape rooms I have done, there was less focus on keys and combinations and more of a focus on physical puzzles involving moving components. This made lots of the puzzles feel very novel and original, although unfortunately it made some of them quite fiddly, ensuring certain objects were lined up perfectly for example, which was frustrating when you found the correct answer but couldn’t get the mechanism to detect it and unlock! For four of us it usually felt like there was something for everyone to be getting on with (outside of a few key moments like the final puzzle which had us all panicking about one gizmo), but perhaps with six some people would be left with nothing to do.
Overall this is a great experience for any Doctor Who fan interested in escape rooms. Our group consisted of two Whosoc members and two more casual fans and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly, with enough little trinkets to appeal to the more dedicated fans without overdoing it and losing the interest of the more casual players. Our game supervisor, Evelyn, was enthusiastic in her (somewhat diegetic) role and was ready to offer hints when we were frustrated with a puzzle, but never made our job feel too easy. Highly recommended!